Even being off the AT, we wanted to pack in at least a bit more adventure as we progress further into waiting/healing mode. Luckily Andy turned 25 just in time for us to rent a car, and just as luckily the family we were staying with was able to drive us to Portland (a couple hours away) to pick up our rental. It was a snazzy new Ford Focus in which everything was mysteriously operated through a computer screen. Even changing the radio station the first time took more random button pressing than my pride was prepared for.
From Portland, we headed to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. After our three days of slackpacking past Rangeley, we were about five more days of hiking from Gorham, the town at the northern end of the Whites. By car, it took just a couple of hours. One of the stranger aspects of being off the trail but still in the vicinity of the trail for so long is that it gave us a much clearer perspective of the areas we were (or in this case, would have been) hiking through. Not only does it all look very different by road than it does when you're in the woods (we were suddenly looking lazily up at peaks that we would have been gazing down from, muscles burning), but we could see just how strangely the trail winds and curves. Not that a direct course is by any means the point when you're looking to walk through the woods for half a year, but it is a strange feeling to zoom past miles after mile that you know has the potential to contain so much exhaustion, exhilaration, and adventure.
I should probably mention that our main reason for going to Gorham, rather in wallowing in what could have been, was to pick up mail both there and in nearby Franconia. We hoped to be able to drive up Mount Washington, too, as it's said to be the most spectacular peak in the Whites, but Andy's GPS said the drive would add three hours to our trip and it was just too late in the day. It was really too bad--the Whites, and Mt. Washington in particular, are notorious for bad weather and that day was as beautiful and clear as could possibly be hoped for. But of course we'll be back, both to finish our thru and likely just to vacation.
In Gorham, we had one of our massive resupply boxes from Andy's mom waiting (full of extra delicious snacks that she threw in!), and we also got a package from one of our blog readers! It was so exciting that I didn't want to wait to dig out a knife--we sliced the tape on it with my credit card. Inside were a bunch of hiking goodies in perfect travel sizes--including two of the most adorable mini tabasco bottles I've ever seen. Pretty awesome, since Andy had been missing hot sauce on the trail! Thanks so much, Peter!
Next up was Franconia. I don't think that Franconia is a very common trail stop (it only gets a small mention in our guide book), but we had sent our bounce box there to avoid the more expensive lodging of North Woodstock/Lincoln. And then it was off to Massachussetts with a perhaps fitting greeting of gridlock rush hour traffic. Luckily, my friend Michelle lives outside of the city and we were able to skirt our way around most of it. The mass of cars and people and tightly packed spaces was sort of like a mini culture shock--a sensation that took a few days to start wearing off.
I might have mentioned this in an earlier post, but it was sort of unbelievable that Michelle offered to take us in. We were good friends in high school, but for college our whole group spread out around the country and some, including the two of us, haven't seen each other since. Anyway, it was really great and we ended up staying with her for about two weeks. In that time, she took us to a lot of places we'd never otherwise get to go and made an appointment for Andy to see the most legit orthopedist yet. And in an extra bout of luck, Andy's dad was in the area for a business trip and was able to meet up with us. He took us out to lunch at a marina and dropped us off at Andy's appointment. It was wonderful to be able to see him, especially with all the craziness we've been going through since getting off the trail.
One of the things that we kept remarking on during our visit is how funny it is to be in an area with so many different states nearby. In Colorado it's not necessarily hard to get to another state, but odds are good that you'll just find flat dusty nothingness when you get there. In Massachusetts you get on a highway for a couple hours (rush hour traffic excluded), you could hardly help but cross a state border. Taking advantage of this, Michelle took us to Rhode Island twice. The first trip we went to Providence where we walked around a park that must have contained about 15 wedding parties and the second trip we went to Newport Beach, where we drove past massive houses, got solidly burned on the beach (oops), and walked around a very cute downtown.
We didn't do a ton in downtown Boston, but we did walk around some and visit the science museum. We've been kind of torn on this time off as to what to do with ourselves since 1) the budget needed for city roaming is a bit different than the one we have for mountain roaming and 2) walking probably isn't the best for a broken foot (and the crutches hurt, too). But we did do a lot of pack weight cutting, even returning our much-loved tent and ordering a much lighter one. Andy's parents even bought us summer-rated sleeping bags for our birthdays that are also significantly lighter (our current ones are rated for 15 and 20 degrees, the new ones for 40). Regardless of whether we can get on the trail again this year, we've definitely learned a lot of what we do/don't need when we get going again. Hopefully we can get Andy to another doctor next week for a new x-ray and a healing update with good news!